National Monument a reality

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This is the month of Thanksgiving and there is much to be thankful for, but I’d like to focus my gratitude on the Pullman National Monument. If you’ve been paying attention to anything having to do with Pullman, you’re aware by now of the great news coverage of the grand opening that took place over Labor Day weekend. Two days of public festivities and one day of speeches by dignitaries gave everyone from near and far the opportunity to celebrate the new National Park Service Visitor Center. For those who may have missed the information or photos, what we’ve always called the clock tower administration building is now the NPS Visitor Center.

What we all grew up with and have watched go through many changes in appearance over the years is now the main focus of the National Park Service’s efforts in Pullman. With a multi-million-dollar investment, Pullman has become the “gem” of Chicago’s Far South Side. I urge everybody to pay the center a visit.

For many of us Far South Siders, Pullman has always held a warm spot in our memories. As I walked the grounds of Pullman during the Labor Day weekend festivities as George Pullman and posed for photos with the visitors, I heard many stories of Pullman connections. Visitors recalled playing among the abandoned buildings and chasing each other throughout the surrounding prairies.

A large number of visitors proudly mentioned their fathers, grandfathers and even great-grandfathers having been employed at the Pullman factories. A group of women mentioned that they had all worked together at Pullman and formed lifelong friendships. One woman even said that working at Pullman in the 1970s was the best job she ever had.

The former Pullman Visitor’s Center (the old American Legion Post #49 banquet hall) has been renamed the Pullman Exhibit Hall. The hall still has the great exhibit with the George Pullman family story, the continuously showing 18-minute movie of Pullman’s beginnings and community efforts to save the entire town, factory and Hotel Florence. Community events will still be held there, including Pullman Civic Organization meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month.

The Pullman National Monument Visitor’s Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Thanksgiving. Call 773-468-9310 for current information. The exhibits are both informative and impressive. They’re located on the first floor with a souvenir shop and a ranger reception station. Expect to spend a good hour or two perusing the exhibits and grounds.

Unfortunately, there is no handicap parking or drop-off area near the front entrance, with its beautiful architecture and architecture. There’s a 100-yard walk between there and the parking lot, which is directly accessible to the main entrance at the back of the building. Wheelchairs are available and can be scheduled by calling 773-468-9310.

The Hotel Florence is operated by the state of Illinois and, due to budget constraints, is sadly not generally opened for touring. The first floor is still undergoing renovations as money becomes available. However, the hotel was opened during the Grand Opening festivities which allowed visitors to view the ongoing renovation efforts on the first floor. If you have toured the first floor previously, the renovations have been to the decorative touches such as ceilings, woodwork, floor tiles and painting of walls. In answer to a common question, there are no plans to return to the days of Sunday Brunch dining which haven’t taken place since 1997.

The Pullman National Monument under the direction of the National Park Service is specifically dedicated to the Labor movement and the Pullman Porters. George Pullman, the Pullman family and the community of Pullman, which has supported and preserved many of the physical buildings, are recognized through the ongoing exhibits at the Pullman Exhibit Hall. (773-785-890.)

Community volunteers staff the reception desk; I volunteer there on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It gives me great pleasure to share my knowledge of Pullman, Roseland, Kensington and Chicago history with visitors from around the world. Please make it a point of stopping by and joining me. The Pullman National Monument is really a gem and well-worth making a special trip. Also, the neighborhood of Pullman is an architectural gem with completely visible buildings now that fall has arrived.

Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or cjfranoi@yahoo.com; or visit Roseland Roundtable on Facebook.

 

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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